An emotional father says he will look back on pride after completing his latest fundraising effort.
Ivan Hollingsworth, from Whitley Bay, completed his final 210-mile coast to coast challenge on Wednesday.
He and his fellow competitors – including long time friend and TV presenter Ben Shephard – were cheered on by friends, family and supporters as they finished on Tynemouth Longsands.
The group had completed four days of challenges made up of an 81 mile cycle starting in Whitehaven, a mile-long swim across Derwent Water, a 65-mile bike ride to Alston, a 37-mile run to Corbridge before the final day of a 26-mile run to Tynemouth.
Ivan and his wife Nadine have raised nearly £500,000 for the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) through their Seb4CHUF organisation via his previous six coast to coast challenges and fundraising balls.
The money has helped fund a brand new indoor and outdoor playroom and assist with the provision of a three-strong team of play specialist nurses on the ward
The 41-year-old has been inspired to help the charity after seven-year-old son Sebastian underwent life-saving heart surgery just weeks after birth at the Freeman Hospital.
Ivan, who has since become a parent trustee for CHUF, had revealed the latest coast to coast challenge would be his last.
Speaking at the finish, he said: “I don’t know how you put that into words.
“You go from the position of sitting by Seb’s beside as he fights for life, thinking that could be the last time you see him, to this. That is the lonliest, most scary and most vulnerable place a parent can feel.
“Fast forward seven years and you have this. Over the seven years I’ve been joined by strangers at the time who have now become amazing friends. I feel blessed.
“This is the end of the Coast 2 Coast but I will continue fundraising for CHUF. I won’t ever forget what we have achieved with this.
“We have done something that positively impacts on families by supporting the unit.”
Ben said: “We’ve been through an incredible journey together since Seb wasn’t well. Fortunately he was saved by the staff at the Freeman Hospital.
“I did the first two Coast to Coasts and wanted to do this one as it was the last one.”
“Everyone has given blood, sweat and tears for this challenge. There were some tough parts.
““For Seb, Nadine and Ivan the challenge continues and for all the other families who have to live through this and watching their children undergo treatment.
“We’re all grateful we can offer some support through these challenges and fundraising.”
Ivan added: “The support I’ve received for this final C2C and all the other six challenges has been truly humbling, and thanks to that support, we’ve been able to achieve incredible things for those who need the medical and psychological support of the amazing Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital.
“Those people saved my son’s life. It’s hard to know how you can ever really repay that gratitude and the C2C challenges have been the best way I know how.”
Those taking part in the challenge were given support from businesses around the north east and further afield.
Main sponsors were Essex-based chartered wealth management specialists, Crocus Wealth. Their director, Peter Norgate is an old family friend and has led the organisation of the vital support team for each of the six previous C2C challenges.
There was further support from signage company DVLC, Richard Hardie Motors, BioSynergy, Start Fitness, AWP, Nick Gilks, Bike4Health, Kinesio UK, Northumbrian Water, SOS Hydrate, Peters Pies. Utilitywise, the North Tyneside commercial energy and utilities consultancy, has also made a substantial financial donation to the challenge.
Chris Gray, CEO at CHUF, said: “Ivan and his family have dedicated so much of their own time and money to raising funds for CHUF and we’re truly grateful for everything they have done.
“They know better than most about how crucial it is for us to help children and their families achieve their dreams.”
For those who wish to support the challenge you can donate by texting CHUF99 and then £5 or £10 to 70070.